Yes, I confess... I liked EXPEND4BLES! It's even worse... I liked it a lot!
I seem to be one of the very few who do though... The professional reviews are atrocious and even longtime fans seem to hate EX4. Is it the best EX film? No, it isn't. Is it among the Top 3? Nope. Is it a perfectly fine action film and a worthy addition to the franchise? It sure is in my book.
Part I (the old gang)
It's all about expectations. If you expect EX4 to go along the lines of the first three films with older action stars from the 80s or 90s blowing shit up you should set yourself up for disappointment. The producers decided to deviate further from Sly's original idea than EX3 (although that one had Snipes, Gibson, and Banderas next to the new team) and came up with some inspiring choices and also some lame ones. Sly, Statham, Lundgren, and Couture are back from the original trilogy. I'll talk more about Sly and Statham later on. Lundgren has a bit more to do than in EX3, and good ole Randy Couture has arguably his biggest and best role in the franchise.
Part II (the new members)
The latest additions are hit and miss.
Megan Fox is pretty OK, provides a bit of eye candy but is nothing special. 50 Cent is no Terry Crews! He does his job but the charisma and the (ch)arms of Terry he hasn't. Iko Uwais of THE RAID's fame could have been used much more effectively but is an okay villain. He loses to JCVD, Mel Gibson, and Eric Roberts in the Best Villain race though. Tony Jaa is fine and shows a bit of his fighting chops.
My personal highlight of the new additions is Jacob Scipio as Galan. His role originally was intended to be EX3's Galgo to be reprised by Antonio Banderas. Due to scheduling conflicts Banderas had to bow out so the role was re-shaped into Galan, Galgo's son. And Scipio does a very good job channelling his inner Antonio.
While Levy Tran is mostly forgettable Andy Garcia is fine as the team's CIA contact turning rogue.
Excuse me, but what about Sly?
The Jason Statham show!
Jason Statham is front and center in this fourth installment. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book as Statham is my 2nd favourite actor ever behind Sly. But even if you don't go that far one can appreciate the skills and intensity he brings to all his roles.
In short: it's absolutely fine! I read in some reviews that this movie was low on action. Come on! Really? I'm still suffering from a neck trauma after having booked one of those rattling and rocking movie seats!
Guns, knives, axes, hand-to-hand combat, you name it. It's all there. It's brutal and entertaining. What more can you ask for?
A lot was said and written about the supposedly horrible effects and the lackluster green screen work. To be honest I didn't find it so bad. You could see the obvious fake background here and there but did it pull me out of the movie? Did it look like 90s DTV as one reviewer mentioned? Of course not!
That's my biggest gripe with this movie. No themes from the other three EXs appear. Not even a hint. And that I can't understand. The music is part of the franchise's DNA and part of its IP. Why didn't the producers demand that at least the main theme has to be included. Brings at least a smile on one's face when you hear it. Ludwig Göransson in the CREED films or Brian Tyler in the last two RAMBOs showed how to do it. Come up with great new melodies but also incorporating the classic themes. Is the score by new composer Guillaume Roussel bad? No, not at all. It's serviceable and has quite some energy. Still a missed opportunity! You might want to give the EXPEND4BLES Soundtrack a listen though.
Dare I ask? What about EX5?
So when can EX4 be considered a success? A franchise that lay dormant for nine years probably opening at No. 1 in the US with about $15M (if the predictions at the time of writing hold) in a totally different marketplace can't be considered a bomb. To me the movie felt more like a restart than a final outing. If it reaches a $40M+ domestic total and $100M+ WW that would be fine nine years after EX3. The trades seem to think otherwise though and might write EX4 down as a flop if it doesn't make serious coin.
If Millennium wants to or has to go on without Statham the budget will be reduced even more and EX5 might end up a DTV or streaming release. THE EXPENDABLES 5 ... starring Randy Couture... Hmmm, not so sure about that.
Assuming Statham and/or Sly remain the core of the franchise I at least hope that there's another EXPENDABLES film because no new entry of a film series (apart from ROCKY/CREED and RAMBO) excites me more in the lead-up to release than another one from Sly's mercenaries saga!